Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Check the Roof

When we dropped our friend off at his house after Gavel Club, he said, "Where's my notebook?" Then with a sickening sinking of his heart, he realized he had put the notebook on top of the car while evading the attacks of a younger boy who had never been taught the meaning of "Stop." As a result, the notebook was likely somewhere on the road between Gavel Club and his home.

Arvo and I had done that once, when we lived in California. We had taken our clothes to a laundromat and then while getting in the car, stopped to chat with someone. Arvo put the basket of clothes atop the car while we chatted. When we finished our conversation, we got in the car and drove home. Lots of people honked at us as we drove. Finally, Arvo realized the clothes were not in the car, and reached his hand to the roof. Ah...there they were! Another person honked wildly, pointing to our roof, and Arvo delivered perhaps the best line he has ever uttered,
"What's the matter? Haven't you ever heard of a car wash?"

When we got home from Gavel Club, my sister had sent me a "Spiritual Gifts Inventory." This 74 question document was supposed to reveal the gifts God has blessed me with so that I could be a mighty spiritual warrior in His kingdom. I really don't like self-analysis tests at all because they are predicated on two impossible premises:
1. That any of us are self aware and have hearts that are not continually self deceived, and
2. That we would be honest if the answer might reveal something we are ashamed of

For example, take the following trick question, "Do you seek opportunities to help others in need?"
It is clear what the Godly person would answer. But honestly, they needed to define their terms better. I could sincerely check off the box if by "seek" they mean, when you see a homeless person on the corner, you hand him a pre-made homeless person bag of food that you have stored in your car unless your teenager raids it in a fit of starvation which teens are prone to. However, if by "seek" they mean- do I drive around looking for homeless people to hand homeless people food bags to, well, then, no. I don't seek opportunities. So I checked the middle score. But was I being fair? Wasn't it seeking opportunity by having the prepared homeless food bag in the car in the first place? I erased the middle ground score and gave myself a higher score. But then, really, didn't I myself raid the homeless food bag when I was starving and wasn't it partially for selfish intent that I kept a stash of homeless food bags in the car? I erased my high score and gave myself the lowest score.

And then come those series of questions about inviting and entertaining people in your home. These questions aren't fair at all. It is too obvious that they are fishing for some proof that I lack the gift of hospitality, but who wants to own up to that? Besides, there is no place on the document where you can explain yourself. Nowhere does it ask, "If you had a home filled with beautiful furniture not buried under 6 inches of dog hair, and more in your refrigerator to offer guests besides homemade dill pickles and boxed wine, would you love inviting and entertaining guests?" My answer might be quite different given that caveat. Still, since it was a spiritual inventory, I decided to strive for brutal honesty. I checked the lowest score. Then I spent the rest of the day depressed because I felt like scum of the earth.

Oh, but then came the questions I could give myself the highest score on. Every single question about creativity I could honestly check off the top score of 5. I may be inhospitable, but I am creative about it!
Ohoh. Here come the faith questions. Honestly, I consider myself a faith filled individual but these questions were posed in such a way, that Jesus Himself was the only one that could pass. Every question was spent in agonizing introspection. I was smart enough to know what the question revealed, and then had to argue both sides in my defense nearly every time. I could envision God tapping His toe and pointing to His watch as I deliberated carefully over each answer.
"Do I pray for hours and days on end?"
Are they serious? Do they mean non-stop or cumulative snippets throughout the day?
"Do I fast regularly?"
Again, define your terms. I fast between meals. I rarely snack. That deserves some commendation in today's ready food society, don't you think?
And so on.

Then I scored my inventory. My highest score was evangelism! One of my lowest was faith. It would appear that I love to tell others about a God I apparently have some doubts about. Number two gift, close on the heels of evangelism, was "creative communication" and "encouragement". Ok, I agree on those ones. And third highest was wisdom and discernment. Worst score? No surprises here- hospitality. Well now, if you put all this together, given that I am wise and discerning, there must be a problem with hospitality that the less wise and less discerning don't know about. This is the only way I can live with my despicable, inhospitable self.  But that relatively low score on faith really bugged me. So I looked back on the questions that determined my lack of faith. First of all, there were only 4 questions. That in itself is a significant problem. 4 questions to assess something so critical as faith? And what were those questions that put me on the same ladder rung as Idi Amin.
"I love to take on challenging assignments in ministry because I know God will work things out in His own way."
Again, TRICK question! I would give myself a 5 on the end part but a 1 on the first part. So I gave myself a middle score.
Question 2 on faith-
"I don't tend to worry about material things because I believe God will take care of all I really need."
AMBIGUOUS!!! If you strike the word "worry" form the question, I score a 5. But any question with "tend not to worry" as part of it automatically disqualifies me from a score beyond 2, and even that is a stretch. Worry is unfaithful? This really worries me.
Question 3 on faith:
"When a situation seems impossible, I turned my concern over to God and experienced a wonderful peace, even when things didn't suddenly change."
All of that question was true for me except "wonderful peace", so I gave myself the next to highest score. Some might argue "wonderful peace" was the most important part of that sentence, but then I would have a lower faith score than I already have so I am sticking with my score.
Last question on faith:
"I enjoy praying with friends on a regular basis."
Tell me why this is under the category faith, and not intercession? And once again, this is a two or even three part question. Part 1: I enjoy praying ( highest score- I really do love to pray), part 2: with friends (very unbiblical question, what about how we are supposed to go pray in a closet? Lowest score but under protest), Part 3: on a regular basis- (undefined, fuzzy terms- what is meant by regular? middle score)

I threw the Inventory down in disgust. Am I really driving the road to God with my faith precariously balanced atop the car, along with hospitality? Don't all the other gifts rest on that bedrock? Shouldn't they be in the car with me?

I got a text message from my friend while I was ripping up the inventory.
"Found the notebook. All is well."

3 John 1:7-9

7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

Psalm 119:30

30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness

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